Thursday April 23
It broke my heart to watch Tom leave. Brooke and I escorted him to the edge of Munchkin Land (as we like to describe the journey back to Lukla) and waved until he was out of sight. He is an amazing person. A spirit and joy few possess. He was our team cheerleader, confident and spiritual guide – plus we all constantly beat him at Hearts. He is very much loved and very missed. I’m certain Cinda and the girls can’t wait for his homecoming but life here at base camp is a whole lot quieter without him.
Despite the two of us hacking like chronic smokers, Brooke and I headed out this morning to train in the icefalls. The first two and a half hours were the usual death march, up and down, over the glaciers, past frigid pools and crystal blue frozen lakes. Over rocks and vertical ice pinnacles. This is difficult going since you never can find that place, that rhythm, that zone. The place where mind takes over and the body just follows and you can trudge along for hours. Nope, not going to find that amongst all this inconsistent terrain.
As things grew steeper there were ropes that had been set into the ice by those famous doctors I mentioned previously. Now things were getting interesting and I always love the technical part of this sport versus the mundane. We clipped into the ropes and kept heading up through the icefalls. The ever changing ice and variation of technique and physical requirements totally occupy the mind and you forget where you are and how high. After another hour we finally came to the first of the many ladders set up throughout the icefalls, we crossed seven in total, my training in Bend this past winter really paying off. I felt fast and efficient and unafraid. The ladders go in all directions, vertical, horizontal, up and down. There are ropes on either side anchored into the ice on which we are clipped and use for balance as we cross. Ladders on an upward slope we lean back and keep the ropes in front of us. Those going downhill (and often more difficult to cross) the opposite lean forward and hold the ropes behind for stability. I really thought when I came to my first ladder over a bottomless crevasse I would be crossing on my hands and knees (very poor form by the way) but I found the crossings very easy and no better way to navigate a gapping crevasse. We have often talked about crossing these ladders and I recall being instructed to look straight across the ladder not down into the crevasse. I can tell you what each ladder wrung looks like but I also recall seeing a very blue sliver that is so deep it turns to black. Brooke said she saw trash so go figure, two versions to every story!
It was a great day to finally be up and out of base camp. We were probably another two to three hours out of Camp 1 at 19,000 feet but that is for another day. In the meantime this gave us some much needed mental and physical training and the confidence to go even higher.
Everest Base Camp (EBC for future reference) is an interesting hub of activity. As mentioned previously, every rock star in the sport of mountain climbing is here. Russell Brice (for those familiar with the Discovery Channel series on Everest a few seasons back) is here for a new Discovery series. His team is enormous something like 28 clients, 54 Sherpa and 8 guides not to mention the film crew. As you can imagine the logistics are incredible. Just his camp alone, too big to be in the actual EBC, is like a city. Rumor has it he has a big screen tv, sofas and an expresso bar. As if this is not enough there is another Discovery Channel team with the International Mountain Guide expedition. Now you can imagine what is actually taking place here! We have a competition of the Discovery Channel teams! I can not wait until this all runs on tv next fall, should make for great viewing. Add to the mix the Eddie Bauer team being sponsored and funded by the sportswear company including Ed Viesters (he has done all the 8000 meter peaks without supplemental oxygen) and a UN delegation carrying a 50 year old proclamation for the UN by a climber who was in the original Discovery Channel series of last season….well EBC is a hopping. Rumors abound and this all keeps our little team highly amused and grateful to be out of the fray.
But! You can take advantage of some great footage being shot by the Eddie Bauer group by logging onto the Rainier Mountaineering website and follow the links to their Everest climb. Word has it that the footage is spectacular. I love that, now you can see what we are seeing and Brooke and I didn’t have any of the hassle!!! Also check Mountain Links website for photos and, if technology is working, some video Robert has been shooting. Getting anything out via the internet is extreme to say the least. This blog is so incredibly long because I am able to write it on a regular computer in Word. At the moment the internet is not working and this manuscript of epic proportion maybe for naught. Keep your fingers crossed!